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Pornographers and peyoteros

21 November 2010

I’m cleaning up the usual over-accumulation of bookmarks.

Snowbirds gone wild!

Dawn Paley (Quotha) on irresponsible behavior the Canada Post probably won’t cover:

Canada’s “Porn King” has found an unlikely second career building retirement homes in Honduras. While Canadian snowbirds snap up paradise at $85 per square foot, the locals say the developments are illegal—and they intend to get their land back.

North American baby boomers have proven to have a boundless appetite for vacation or retirement homes in sunny, cheap places that aren’t too wracked by crime or war. It’s been a global windfall for many other countries, and now the people who run Honduras want a cut. Canadian entrepreneur Randy Jorgensen, developer of the Campa Vista complex, is happy to oblige. Jorgensen sells this tropical dream over the internet and in hotel conference-room seminars held in grey-skied Canadian locales: Regina; Etobicoke, Ontario; Duncan, B.C. His basic pitch: Honduras is the latest, best bargain available to Canadians wanting to own their own piece of a developing country.

But—as you might have guessed—this sunny picture doesn’t tell the whole story. Just off the beach in Trujillo, six men sit around a peeling wooden picnic table. They’ve agreed to meet me here to discuss their concerns about the Canadians they say are squatting on their ancestral lands.

José Velasquez, the current president of the two Garífuna communities in Trujillo, hands me a photocopy titled “Pronunciamiento No. 3.” It outlines the Garífuna peoples’ desire to reclaim their ancestral territories, and demands that the Honduran government nullify all land sales to Jorgensen.

Canadians who choose to ignore the long-standing conflicts over rural land do so at the expense of all who have lived there before, and put themselves at risk as well. Consider the advice of the U.S. State Department: “U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in real estate, particularly in coastal areas and the Bay Islands.” Instead of buying into a smooth sales pitch, Canadians would do well to ask themselves why they expect to land in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries, which is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and be treated like gods.

Hard time for drug dealers

…of the legal variety.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said peyote distributors sold more than 1.5 million buttons worth approximately $483,000 last year, up from nearly 1.48 million buttons with a value of $471,000 in 2008. But that’s down sharply from the mid-1990s, when distributors sold more than 2.3 million buttons, according to Morales and another licensed peyote dealer, Salvador Johnson.

Mange said the number of licensed distributors in Texas has declined as the job has gotten harder. Experts have noticed the same changes.

“The cactus grows slowly, and the peyoteros are forced to go back too early and harvest re-growth buttons,” said Martin Terry, a biology professor at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. He co-founded the Cactus Conservation Institute to safeguard several species, including peyote.

Harvesters once routinely uncovered 100- to 150-year-old plants but now usually settle for cacti that are less than five years old, said Johnson, who deals peyote in Mirando City, about 90 miles north of Rio Grande City, otherwise known for its thriving mesquite tree population.

Teodosio Herrera is spiritual leader of the 30-member Rio Grande Native American Church and calls peyote “the medicine,” a monicker used by everyone who deals legally in the cactus. He said the problem of cutting away buttons too early is exacerbated by poachers who harvest peyote incorrectly, harming the roots so the plants cannot regenerate.

“If we don’t do something to ensure survivability, it may not be around for my great-grandchildren,” said Herrera, 62.

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